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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Civil Rights Glossary

View Glossary terms beginning with:
Affirmative Action
Positive steps taken by an employer to ensure equal employment opportunities for minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. In federal employment, extra effort must be made to include qualified women, minorities, and persons with disabilities at grade levels and in job categories where they are underrepresented.

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Affirmative Employment Plan (MD-715)
Current guidance on affirmative employment is the EEOC's Management Directive 715, which establishes standards for maintaining a model EEO agency program pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

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Age Discrimination
Age discrimination is present if an individual covered under this provision is treated unfavorably in the terms and conditions of his/her employment because of his or her age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids discrimination based on age for those individuals who are 40 years of age or older. An individual is covered when an employer discriminates in any facet of employment including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, wages, benefits, hours worked, and availability of overtime based on age.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
ADR refers to a variety of dispute resolution processes (e.g., mediation, conciliation, arbitration, facilitation, etc.) designed to assist parties in working through issues and/or resolving differences in ways that meet the parties' interests. These processes are confidential, involve a third party neutral, and are typically voluntary. ADR is available during the pre-complaint and formal complaint processes, and is useful for resolving disputes involving miscommunication, personality conflicts, disagreement over facts, and alleged discrimination. It is not available for cases of waste, fraud, abuse, criminal activity, dispute over agency policy, workplace violence, or allegations of sexual harassment.

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Class Complaint/Class Action
A complaint articulated or filed by a group of people who feel that personnel or management policies or practices discriminate against them as a group. Members of the group believe that a characteristic they share—race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability is the basis for the discrimination. For example, a class may be made up of women who believe they have been consistently discriminated against because of their sex. In such a case, all female employees, past and present, and all female applicants would be included in the complaint. When a class complaint goes to court, it becomes a class action. As with complaints by individuals, illegal discrimination may or may not have occurred.

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Color Discrimination
Discrimination based on color occurs when individuals are treated less favorably than others who are similarly situated because of the color of their skin. This is a separately identifiable type of discrimination, which can also occur in conjunction with race discrimination.

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Community Outreach Program
Community Outreach Program is a continuous public relations approach to the achievement of the agency's civil rights policies and objectives. The objectives of community outreach include, but are not limited to:

Establishing and maintaining good working relations with leaders of minority, women's, and disabled persons' organizations; community leaders; officials of schools, colleges and technical institutions; and Federal, State, local, and corporate officials involved in civil rights program activities, ensuring that managers and supervisors with responsibilities in federally assisted programs increase the awareness of and participation by minority, women, and individuals with disabilities, organizations, and institutions in the various FSIS programs. These endeavors include similar efforts by recipients of Federal assistance.

The following list includes examples of community outreach activities:
  • Arranging for individuals and groups to visit FSIS facilities;
  • Meeting with community leaders, tribal councils, minority, women's and disabled persons' organizations, and others involved in seeking to further civil rights;
  • Attending and participating in conventions, meetings, seminars, training sessions, etc., of minority, women's and disabled persons' organizations and support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, and Hispanic-serving Institutions.

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Complaint
A complaint is a claim of illegal discrimination that is handled through an administrative procedure. A complaint may result when an employee believes he or she has been unfairly treated because of race, color, etc. The claim itself is not proof that illegal discrimination has taken place. The investigation that follows the filing of a formal complaint will determine if illegal discrimination has, in fact, occurred. A person who files a complaint is called a complainant .

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Discrimination
Discrimination is defined in civil rights law as unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person or class of persons in comparison with others who are not members of the protected class.

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Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities
Discrimination against a person with a disability occurs when an employee or applicant is treated less favorably on the basis of a disabling condition. It can also happen when an organization fails to make reasonable accommodation for a qualified disabled employee or applicant able to meet the requirements of the position through reasonable accommodation or job modification.

A person with a disability is defined as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Physical or mental impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine, or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

Major life activities include (but are not limited to) functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, standing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.

Has a record of such an impairment is defined as having a history of, or having been classified (or misclassified) as having a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Is regarded as having such an impairment means: (1) Has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but is treated by an employer as constituting such a limitation; (2) Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitude of an employer toward such impairment; or (3) Has none of the impairments but is treated as having a substantially limiting impairment.

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Disparate Impact
Under EEO law, less favorable effect for one group than for another. Disparate or adverse impact results when policies and practices applied to all employees or applicants have a different and more inhibiting effect on one group than they do on another. For example, nonessential educational requirements for certain jobs can have a disparate impact on minority groups looking for work, as they are often limited in their access to educational opportunities.

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Disparate Treatment
Inconsistent application of rules and policies to an individual or one group of people over another. Discrimination may result when rules and policies are applied differently to members of protected classes. Disciplining Hispanic and Afro-American employees for tardiness, while ignoring tardiness among other employees, is an example of disparate treatment. Such inconsistent application of rules often leads to complaints.

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Equal Employment Opportunity
The goal of laws which make some types of discrimination in employment illegal. Equal employment opportunity (EEO) will become a reality when each U.S. citizen has an equal chance to enjoy the benefits of employment. EEO is not a guarantee of employment for anyone. Under EEO law, only job related factors can be used to determine if an individual is qualified for a particular job. Ideally, EEO laws and Affirmative Action programs combine to achieve equal employment opportunities. See EEO law, Affirmative Action, and Affirmative Employment Plan.

Providing equal opportunity in employment on the basis of merit and fitness without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, religion, marital status, familial status, parental status, sexual orientation, political beliefs, protected genetic information, or reprisal for prior EEO activity.

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EEO Advisory Committees
Serve as a communication link between employees, management and the Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator on issues and concerns affecting equal employment opportunity and workforce diversity in the Agency. They provide recommendations to improve program effectiveness and evaluate employment data to identify trends, accomplishments, or problems.

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Equal Employment Opportunity Laws
Five laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, physical and mental disability in any terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The five EEO laws are:
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 and the Pregnancy Disability Act of 1978.
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1991.

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EEO versus Preferential Treatment
Federal EEO laws do not require an employer to extend preferential treatment to any person or group because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. EEO merely demands that all persons receive the same opportunities for hiring, training, promotion, etc. Where those opportunities were not available to all groups in the past because of discrimination, affirmative employment may be required to overcome the effects of such bias.

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Ethnic Group
A group of peoples who share a common religion, color, or national origin. Irish-Americans, Mexican-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, Hindus, Moslems, and Jews are examples of ethnic groups. Some members of ethnic groups participate in the customs and practices of their groups, while others do not. Discrimination based on these customs and practices is illegal under EEO law. Also See Minority.

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Job Related
Essential to job performance. The knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience necessary to perform a particular job. Tests are job related if they test whether an applicant or employee can perform the job in question. A rule or practice is job related if it is necessary for the safe and efficient performance of a particular job. For example, a rule prohibiting employees from wearing loose, flowing clothing around high speed rotating equipment is job related. However, the same rule applied in an office with no rotating equipment is not job related, and may have a disparate impact on some ethnic minorities.

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Labor Force/Labor Market
Labor Force describes all civilians who are at least 16 years old and not in the military and employed or looking for work. The labor market is a group within the labor force whose members could fill a particular job. To be considered part of the labor market for a GS-5 clerical position, for instance, an individual must meet all minimum job-related requirements for that grade and classification. For most jobs, employers can find enough applicants in the local labor market. For jobs that have high minimum qualifications, employers may need to tap the national labor market to find enough applicants.

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Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
The Supreme Court has determined that one type of national origin discrimination is discrimination based upon a person's non-fluency in reading, speaking, writing, or understanding English. Such non-fluency can impact a person's ability to "meaningfully access" federally conducted and assisted programs and activities.

Executive Order 13166 signed by President Clinton in 2000 requires federal agencies and federally assisted entities to examine their programs and services and implement language assistance services where needed, such as oral interpretation services, hiring bilingual staff, telephone interpreter lines, and written translation services. The Department of Justice has issued "four factor analysis" guidance to assist agencies in assessing and providing assistance to reduce such language barriers which may impact an LEP person's entitlement to program benefits, information, and services.

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Merit Principles
Rules established by the Office of Personnel Management for the federal government to follow in hiring, promoting, and all terms and conditions of employment. One of those rules states that selection and advancement shall be made on the basis of an applicant's or employee's ability, knowledge, and skills in fair and open competition.

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Minority
The smaller part of a group. A group within a country or state that differs in race, religion or national origin from the dominant group. According to EEOC guidelines, minority is used to mean four particular groups who share a race, color or national origin.

These groups are:
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintain their culture through a tribe or community.
  • Asian or Pacific Islander. A person having origins in any of the original people of the Far East, Southeast Asia, India, or the Pacific Islands. These areas include, for example, China, India, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.
  • Black (except Hispanic). A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
  • Hispanic. A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
The many peoples with origins in Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East make up the dominant white population. Of course, many more minority groups can be identified in the American population. However, they are not classified separately as minorities under EEO law. It should be noted that women are not classified as a minority. However, they have experienced the same kind of systemic exclusion from the economy as the various minorities. Thus, they are considered as having "minority status" as far as the law is concerned.

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National Origin Discrimination
National origin discrimination has been broadly defined as including, but not limited to, the denial of equal employment opportunity because of an individual's or his/her ancestor's country of origin or because an individual has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group.

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Numerical Goal
A target number of qualified women, minorities or persons with disabilities hired and advanced within a given period of time through an Affirmative Employment Program. A numerical goal is not a quota, as it may not be reached within the time frame. It does not permit the hiring or advancement of unqualified employees. Numerical goals provide a standard, which allows an activity to measure the effectiveness of its Affirmative Employment Program. When numerical goals are reached, the percentage of women and minority group members working at appropriate grade levels and classifications will be closer to or at their percentage in the labor market.

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Overt Discrimination
Overt discrimination is a specific, observable action taken against a person or class of persons because of protected status, e.g., national origin. This treatment also is referred to as "intentional discrimination."

Example: Failing to interview job applicants based solely on their race (race discrimination).

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Prima Facie
At first sight; on the first appearance; on the face of it, so far as can be judged from the first disclosure; presumably. A litigating party is said to have a prima facie case when the evidence in his or her favor is sufficiently strong for his or her opponent to be called on to answer it. A prima facie case is one which is established by evidence, and can be overthrown only by rebutting evidence addressed on the other side.

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Protected Class
The groups protected from employment discrimination by statute are men and women on the basis of gender; any group which shares a common race, color, national origin, or religion; people over the age of 40; reprisal for prior EEO activity; and people with a mental and/or physical disability. The groups protected from employment discrimination by Executive Order and USDA regulation/policy are those which share a common sexual orientation; political beliefs; marital, familial, or parental status; and protected genetic information.

Each USDA employee is a member of a protected class (this includes White males) and is entitled to protection from illegal employment discrimination. Of historical note, EEO laws were passed to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women, minorities, and people with disabilities.

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Quota
Fixed hiring and promotion rates based on race, sex, or other protected class standards, which must be met at all costs. In extreme cases, the courts have assigned quotas to some employers who have continued to practice illegal discrimination. An agency or any other employer cannot use quotas to meet their affirmative employment goals unless a court orders it.

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Racial Discrimination
Racial discrimination is present when people are treated differently from others who are similarly situated because they are members of a specific race. It can occur when individuals are treated differently because of unalterable characteristics, such as a physical feature, indigenous to their race. The courts have also found that racial discrimination in employment can occur when employees are treated differently from other employees similarly situated because of their interracial dating or marriages, racially oriented expression of attitudes and beliefs, and/or membership in racially oriented groups.

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Reasonable Accommodation
Adjustments or changes an employer must make in the work schedule or work environment to enable disabled employees to perform their jobs. Widening doorways, installing access ramps, and lowering worktables are considered reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability. Schedule changes that allow employees time off for religious observances are also reasonable accommodations. Adjustments or changes are considered reasonable if they do not have a negative effect on workflow or production, or are unreasonably costly or burdensome to the employer.

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Religious Discrimination
Religious discrimination occurs when an employment rule or policy requires a person to either violate a fundamental precept of his or her religion or lose an employment opportunity. The definition of "religion" is not restricted to the major religions. Since the provisions under religion include a lack of belief, atheists are also covered. The coverage under religion includes all aspects of religious observances and practices as well as belief.

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Reprisal/Retaliation
A complaint may be filed by an individual who alleges restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination or retaliation for raising a claim of discrimination; or for representing one who has alleged discrimination or serving as a witness; or for advocating equal opportunity for others; or for acting as an EEO official in processing such complaints.

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Sexual Harassment
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment;
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

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Special Emphasis Program
A tool used in accomplishing affirmative employment goals. These programs are directed at improving employment opportunities for particular groups and they are required by regulation. Specific efforts of a special emphasis program may include targeting resources and identifying specific individuals to benefit from the resources available. The Federal Women's Program, Hispanic Employment Program and Disability Placement Program are all identified in regulation and addressed in affirmative employment plans.

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Underrepresention
Inadequately represented in the work force of a particular activity. This term is used to describe the extent to which women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are represented in particular grade levels and job categories. The percentage of women, minorities and persons with disabilities in the labor market is used as a standard to determine underrepresentation. For example, suppose there are 100 GS-12's at an agency; three of them or 3% are black. However, the black labor market for GS-12 positions at that particular activity is 15%. In this case, blacks are underrepresented at the GS -12 level.

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Underutilization
To use less than fully; below potential use. This term is often applied to categories of employees who are working at jobs that do not make full use of their skills and abilities, although they may have been hired for those skills and abilities. When an employee is consistently assigned to "dead end" jobs, he or she may be underutilized because they are often seen as able to perform only limited tasks.

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Unfair Treatment versus Unlawful Discrimination
Unfair treatment is not necessarily unlawful discrimination. Treating a person unfavorably in comparison to others may violate EEO laws only when that person's protected status is a factor in the treatment. For example, giving one white female a better assignment than another white female similarly qualified may be unfair, but not discriminatory. Giving a white female a better assignment than a similarly qualified minority female may be discriminatory.

Employment decisions should be based only on job-related merit factors. All employees should avoid conduct that undermines fair and equal treatment. Although all unfair treatment may not be discriminatory, it is poor personnel management and should be avoided.

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Last Modified Jul 31, 2013